Book Review: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger

What it's about

9780241950432Since his debut in 1951 as The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield has been synonymous with “cynical adolescent”. Holden narrates the story of a couple of days in his sixteen year-old life, just after he’s been expelled from prep school, in a slang that sounds edgy even today and keeps this novel on banned books lists.

His constant wry observations about what he encounters, from teachers to phonies (the two of course are not mutually exclusive) capture the essence of the eternal teenage experience of alienation.

Review

Well, well, well, Holden Caulfield. What on Earth can I say about you? I’ve only just got around to reading The Catcher in the Rye, despite in being one of the most well-known classics. It’s one of those books I feel like I have to read, you know? And I’m glad I did because this isn’t one I’m going to forget any time soon. Not for it’s impeccable writing style or it’s riveting plotline or unexpected twists but just for being what it is – cynical, different and raw. The Catcher in the Rye follows the life of sixteen year-old Holden Caulfield for a couple of days after he’s expelled from school. Written from his point of view, he gives you a glimpse into his life on those uncertain and rocky few days of his life.

I had a good vibe from this book within the first few chapters. It was easy to read and I got into the swing of Holden’s narrative very quickly. I had somewhat of a tainted view of him at first. I usually have such an affinity with messed up, adolescent main characters and their issues and I always enjoy reading about how they see the world because more often than not, I can usually understand their point of view. I was totally on Holden’s side at the beginning but as the book progresses I began to see how much more isolated and screw up this kid actually is. After a while, I wished he would just grow up and get his shit together – he has such an angry and vicious take on the world, I actually kinda felt sorry for him. I loved Holden’s relationship with his sister because she was the only living person you could genuinely tell he cared for.

If you’re expecting something mind-blowing and life-changing with plot twists and star-crossed lovers then I probably wouldn’t recommend this book to you. Not much really happens, in fact, nothing happens. As my friend Charlotte from Miscrawl nicely put it, “It really is just 200 pages of Holden’s waffle” and it is. But this book really is more about the internal rather than the external and it was so intriguing to see the world so completely through a different set of eyes. It’s a strange book… but that sonofabitch really knows how to pull you in. Nicely played Holden, nicely played.

Goodreads | Amazon US | Amazon UK | The Book Depository

Rating

4/5 Stars

Advertisements

10 thoughts on “Book Review: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger

  1. I remember reading this and not really being knocked out by it. I can get that it was ‘cool’ to angsty teens etc back in the day, but because of the shift in language etc since it was written, it didn’t have much of an impact if I’m honest. Good book, but I wanted to love it more.

    • Hi Tom! Haven’t heard from you in a while – I hope you’re well!

      I get what you mean about it, I definitely think this book will only appeal to certain people, maybe of a certain age-range possibly? The general storyline didn’t have much of an impact, if ANY on me, considering nothing happens it was Holden’s narrative that got me on this one!

  2. So pleased you enjoyed this, even if Holden did start to annoy you at the end! What you said about it being internal rather than external was spot on. Couldn’t have put it better myself 🙂 xx

  3. When this appeared for the first time, the American Government banned it. They feared that this book which showcased the agony of a teenager had the power to derail the fragile young minds of a nation into destructive paths. When I say the ‘agony’, it’s the true agony faced by a troubled teenager, not the namby-pamby and ridiculous and meaningless troubles with his opposite sex.

    Holden Caulfield is deeply troubled. He’s alone, ambition-less, expelled from school. The story describes the events which ultimately lead to his breakdown. J D Salinger uses street language which enhances the realism of the character.

    This is not a light read. Infact, though the story is about a teenager, this will be more appreciated by adults. And yes, a teenager who takes more notice of life and its comedies and tragedies and its drama than just the girl sitting beside him will be able to appreciate the book.

    The book is timeless. Teenage angst, the ignorance and arrogance that resonate with anyone’s life during that time come to play and it’s this aspect which makes the book still relevant though it was first released in early 1950s. Though banned initially, the book years later, has been adopted by many schools across the West as part of their academics. Knowledge can sometimes aid as a medicine. This is perhaps used as a medicine for those kids who do not make a path to invest their energies in and rather succumb to petty troubles which take the appearance of nightmares in their teenage. This is an enlightening read.

  4. “It’s one of those books I feel like I have to read, you know?”

    Yeah, I know. It is. I’ve read this twice now. Many books I dislike improve with a second reading, and I guess this did some, but I’m still not a fan. Truthfully, I’m not a fan of Holden. The writing is superb, but my dislike for Holden is so strong, I can’t quite get past it. I’ve read that the entire account is supposed to be Holden talking to a psychiatrist. I’m not sure if Salinger ever confirmed or denied this, but that seems plausible.
    My review: http://100greatestnovelsofalltimequest.blogspot.com/2011/09/catcher-in-rye-by-jd-salinger-1951-3.html

    • I’m sorry you felt that way about the main character- he definitely isn’t perfect and comes across as infuriating at times but i liked that and I think it made me enjoy the book even more. However, unlike you, I don’t think I could read it again. Thats an interesting theory about it being an account to his psychiatrist. I’ve never heard of that before but it certainly makes a lot of sense. I wonder how much truth is in that.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s